A Weekend in Geneva.

The city of Geneva, Switzerland is one of those places you kind of don’t end up at unless you’re headed there. Odd, since it’s the seat of the UN, really picturesque, and pretty much dead in the center of the continent.

I slid through for the weekend, hoping to get a couple pictures of the lakeside and do the necessary stop at CERN. This was accomplished and more, as Geneva turned out to be a great place to visit.

Stopping at CERN.

(Sculpture commemorating the science leading up to the discovery of the Higgs Boson in 2012.)

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) is located in the western suburbs of Geneva. There is a tram that goes straight to the CERN complex from the city center. It is tram 18, and can be caught from multiple points in the city.

The research center is a worthwhile half-day excursion to make. There are two permanent exhibits to explore. One deals with the science of mass and matter. The other deals with the particle accelerator itself, and some history of the complex. Both are quite good.

Guided tours are available however, the tickets need to be obtained in advance for the day of your visit. They are awarded first come first served, and are quite hard to get. There is generally a much larger number of requests than tickets.

Geneva and the Lake Front.

(Old Geneva and the Lake Front, as Seen from the Cathedral Tower.)

The major shopping and sight seeing options are located on the south side of he river, in Old Geneva. The south side is dominated by the fortified hill that comprised the original defended city center area. The old city area is compact, so walking between one place and the next isn’t an issue. The high area itself is quite steep, but easily navigated.

The Cathedral of ST Peter sits on the high point of the old city, and makes a good reference point when walking. Most of the museums are in this general area of the city as well. If you visit on 19 May, the International Day of the Museum, they are all also free entry.

Logistics.

Getting to/from Geneva is pretty easy. The city train station and airport are both located on the north side of the city, and cover all of the General carriers.

If you fly in, be sure to stop at the kiosk in the arrivals area and get the free train ticket that takes you from the airport to the train station. The ticket and your flight boarding pass, and you have a free train ride.

Also check with your hotel upon arrival. Most all hotels offer free tourist transit cards. This with your passport gives you free travel around the city center on all the local transit systems. So the two together make it basically free to move about!

Swiss Francs are about on-par with the US Dollar, but the city is still otherwise fairly pricey. Don’t let this discourage you though, just plan accordingly.

The people are wonderfully friendly. French is he recognized official language of the city, but you will hear some others too. Almost everyone is happy enough to default to English, if you get stuck. This makes it a good place to practice your French!

Now, get out there and enjoy! Bonjour, from Geneva!

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Bahrain day 2.

Today, was an interesting day. Not super cool and adventurous day, but low key and casual day. Not a bad day to be out adventuring around a new country.

It started at the hotel, with breakfast. My stopping point for this trip is The K Hotel, in Manama. Its a good hotel. The bar is quite good, but we’re considering breakfast at this point. Breakfast is a multifaceted affair, with something for everyone. Coffee and tastiness abound. All good.

Then, I stop at the desk to ask about taxi pricing to the Fort of Bahrain. What I got was a sales pitch for one of the in-house tours. Deciding that neither option was optimal, I decided to try the national museum. It was a small trip and less taxi time. It was also nice. Not over the top, but a good cross section of Bahrain history. It also gave me some good book ideas, which was bonus.

Walking out of the museum, I came up against one of the problems of tourist travel. I got there by taxi, but there were no taxis to take me on to my next stop. So, I started walking. I walked, and I walked, until I made it to the hotel again. It was only a couple miles and a nice day, so it was good.

Back at the hotel there was water and chill time. Then, out again. I was headed to a nearby Souk. Sadly, I realized that I couldn’t get there from here. So …. I went to the corner store and then to Burger King. I know it’s cheesy, but it’s easy food.

The afternoon was spent at the bar! Guinness and peanuts. Several Guinness and lots of peanuts. I watched P3 session and had a multi-topic conversation with a British expat named Chris. It was nice to have a solid political conversation where nobody got ass-hurt and there was still beers involved. Doesn’t happen very often.

Now, I’m sitting here trying to decide what the evening will bring, and writing this blog post. Probably should behave. Got a long day tomorrow.

You gotta get out there and see what there is to see!

Dubai. Day One.

I need to start by saying that Fly Dubai is definitely worth the money. If you get a chance to utilize their services, I say do it. The planes are new and clean. They are reasonably priced and on-time, and their staff is very nice. I think that the Stewardesses are outfitted by The Gap. Its that kind out uniform.

The Dubai airport is super easy to navigate. Getting through customs (on a US passport) is really easy.

I caught a taxi from the airport to the hotel. The Taxis, like a lot of things in Dubai, aren’t necessarily cheap. But at midnight it seemed the right thing to do. There is an easy to find queue right outside the arrivals door.

My hotel is nice enough. Its in Old Dubai because that seemed to be where the majority of thing I wanted to do were located. Its a bit in the non-touristy area, but the people are nice enough and the price was right! Price is what is seem to work on most. I admit it.

Slept good. Woke up happy. Looked into doing stufff and realized that most of what I wanted to do was closed on Friday or opened late. This is important to remember. In the eastern lands they do not use a western work week. Friday is the start of the weekend and a lot of stuff is closed.

Nevertheless, we drive on, stopped and talked to the front desk person. Got my directions to the metro. Dubai has a fancy new metro system that definitely worth looking into if you’re trying to get around without spent a bunch of dirhams. I picked up a Nol card for 25 AED. It comes preloaded with 19 AED. My first trip across the creek and to the museum area cost me 3AED. At this rate, it should go the weekend without recharging.

As is always the way, I came out of the metro and went in the wrong direction. I suck so bad at navigation. I am constantly going the wrong way. I managed to figure out which way was right (thanks to google maps) and headed on toward the Souq. The Old Dubai Souq is a warren of tight alleys stuffed full of all the standard tourist junk. Anyway, you still have to go. Its kind of a must. The shop keepers are relentless. You need to be able to say no and keep walking, or you’re gonna be broke when you come out the other side. Also,NEVER pay face value. Start your bartering at half what they offer and refuse to go up much. Screwing people is how they make their living, the prices are always super inflated. Don’t believe the sincere expressions or the you’re my good friend speeches. They’re all designed to separate you from your cash. Or DO believe them. Its your money.

I made it out of the Souq with only one purchase. I’m calling that success. I stopped at the museum. It still doesn’t open for another 2.5 hours. Sat and chilled on a bunch for a while. Its not super hot in Dubai, but its still desert. DRINK MORE WATER. Yes, you may have drank some, drink more. There’s usually always some place to find it. In my case, there was a souvenir shop across the street from my bench with bottles of water. Mission solved.

With time to kill, I headed for the other Souq area east of the Museum. Its not really shop alleys. More a recreation of what the place was like in the 1900s. Its cool, and there are a lot of small shops. I was headed for the Coffee Museum. I found it. Its closed on Fridays. Hahahahahaha Such is my day. Now, I’m chilling on a bench writing this. Its a good day, even with the threat of rain in the air.

So far, I like this Dubai place.

Into the Souq!

Later.

Seeing your own country.

The object of most travel scenarios is to escape. Escape has many different faces, but it usually boils down to two basic ideas. They would be to escape the situation you are in (career, relationship, weather, emotional state, etc.) for a while, and to escape to some other place (different country, region, continent, etc.). I get both of them. I use both of them for justification on almost a daily basis. So, it would seem, do most travel operators, bloggers, and advertisers.

Most all of the social media based advertising I have seen lately is targeted toward getting you to travel to somewhere “else”. Go to the Dominican Republic, its magical! Cruises are the only way to see the world! Now is the time to see Europe! Everyone wants you to go somewhere else, and experience new and wonderful things. I get it. I really do. I also have been a proponent of this way of thinking for a long time. There are countless points on the big blue globe that I still want to visit. It’s one of the things that drives my desire to travel.

But – I also remember a time – when there was a different way of thinking about travel. There was a time when traveling to somewhere else meant going to a different location inside your own country. Going to a different city, or state, or region, inside your own country. Getting away and seeing how other people lived. Looking at how other people built things. Experiencing wildlife and nature that was far removed from your own.

Considering that I am American, what I am talking about is the great American Road Trip. Families would pack the kids up in the car and head out to some other place. They would go to the mountains. They would go out to the beaches on the coast. They would wander around the southwest and see the great majesty of the desert. They would travel to see, to experience, and to escape.

Everyone on the globe (okay, maybe a good 98%) have heard stories of driving the iconic Route 66. Many people from other countries have traveled to America, rented cars, and driven this stretch of asphalt. They wanted an experience that they had only read about. So, they went out and grabbed it. I have no doubt that they came back with stories they told over and over again. That’s what the great road trip is all about. And, this experience isn’t about America, it’s about experiencing a new and unique experience. People go to do this around the globe. I have friends who have ridden motorcycles around the Belize jungles. I have a friend who flew to New Zealand and toured the country via motorcycle. He still talks about it. I still talk about driving on the Autobahn in Germany, when I was in my teens. It was a lifetime memory experience.

But, I’m getting off topic. Where I was actually headed with this was, why don’t people view travel inside their own country as travel anymore? Why do people need to go away from their own country to experience something “new”? I am of the opinion that new things are just outside your door, every day. All you have to do is go find them. I still have friends that look at the world this way. They spend weeks planning the summer road trip. They through it all in the vehicle and head out on the highways and byways to see what is new. They always come back with the best stories. Having driving almost the entire Continental United States, at one time or another, I can assure you that you never know what you’re going to see until you look around.

Granted, there are many countries in the world where this isn’t really a great idea. I mean, you can do the country of Lichtenstein in a couple days. Yes, the whole country. Other small countries have many excellent travel opportunities. But lack the geographic area to make them “endlessly wander-able”. Most of the Caribbean, the small countries of Western Europe, some of Central America can all be explored in a reasonable amount of time. But, for the big land mass countries, you can spend endless amounts of time exploring them.

If you live in one of the big land mass countries, do you still get excited about exploring your own country? People from India, Brazil, China, the United states, Canada, Russia (including Siberia), and other large land mass countries, do you explore your own country the same way you go out and explore others? If you don’t, I understand. If you do, that’s awesome!

As a traveler, I love to travel. I love to experience new places. As an American, I love exploring America. That last sentence wasn’t actually a mistake, it was intentional. Having grown up directly on the USA-Canadian border, we came to view Canada as just another part of your neighborhood. Yes, they were on the over side of the river, they had different money, and they had funny road signs (if you went into Quebec), but they were just those people over there. We spent large amounts of time in Canada going up. I learned to appreciate good museums by going to the museums in Ottawa, Ontario. It was part of what made me appreciate and have a sense for culture. I find it sad, that in our post 911 world, the cultural experience of growing up on the border is now all but completely gone.

Where that last paragraph was headed, I think, was that there are many great experiences not far from wherever you are that will give you meaningful experiences. Yup, that was what I was going for. I am always on the lookout for new places I want to go. I have to lists in my phone of places to go/things to do. There is an international one, and there is a US based one. Things that come up in Canada get added to the US list, just because. Whenever a read something and it sounds cool, or I see something on TV that I want to do, I had it to the list. Could be museums, festivals, and great bars, whatever. I want to go places and have new experiences.

Being part of the population that has the benefit of being from a large land mass country, I say don’t count out your own country. The ease of traveling your own country cannot be undervalued. You already understand the road signs, you already have the money, you can speak the language, you understand how tipping in your own country works (this one thing is of immense value all by itself), all of your electronics work without adaptors, and a HUGE list of other benefits exist. Probably another one that I find personally satisfying is that you will be able to read all of the information plagues in the various museums, because they will be in your own language. (Or, for the immigrants, they will be if you have managed to transition the language barrier.) One thing that I find continuously tedious if all the information plaques in museums that I can’t read, because I don’t speak French, Spanish, German, and the like.

Please, do yourself a favor and explore your own country. There are hosts of people travelling to your country every day to do that very thing. The next time somebody from out of town asks you a question about how to get somewhere, or what they could do for fun, if you can pull a good answer it might be because you haven’t explored enough of it yourself. I say, do justice to your country. Get out there and see it. Have a good time, somewhere you speak the language.

 

The walk-up fence at The Trinity Site, White Sands Missile Range, Central New Mexico. Site of the world’s first atomic bomb explosion. Open to the public one day a year. This was taken sometime around 2012. There was a HUGE line to get in.